In a sense, the Bamford x Bremont collaboration has been in the works for some time, even before the main players thought about the project. There has, in the last decade or so, been a notable resurgence in the British watchmaking industry. The new British Alliance of Watch and Clock Makers, founded in 2020, is a trade body with a mission to encourage and guide the modern renewal of watch manufacture on our shores. A report they commissioned from KPMG noted that this remarkable resurrection is being driven by young companies and there can be no more visible evidence of such than Bremont and Bamford Watch Department.

    Both were formed in the last two decades and have been at the vanguard of everything the developing industry has represented in Britain. In a sense, at last, a collaborative venture has resulted and produced a watch that is stunning in form and shows what the players in this country can now accomplish, emerging from the shadows cast by the watch industry elsewhere in the world.

    The Bremont x Bamford collaborative team: brothers Giles and Nick English with George Bamford (in the middle).

    Over the past ten years, both companies have been establishing their foothold. Bremont has gone from using Swiss base ebauche (blank movements) that were finished and cased to their own designs, to a fully functional modern watch factory, called “The Wing” in Henley on the Thames, making their own movements in house. Bamford Watch Department has equally gone from a side hustle by George, where he plated and re-designed high-end Swiss watches such as Rolex and Patek Philippe at the request of individual clients, to establish a contract with LVMH for the production of limited editions and the release of his own brand watches using Swiss industry movements.

    George Bamford has proved that an independent company can throw a good punch at the big players in the world of limited edition watches.

    The new Bamford x Bremont S500 Supermarine is the integration of everything that is new and vibrant about this resurgence. The collaboration of two industry brands, complete watch and design are all British. It shows how far watchmaking in the UK has come.

    The base watch in this instance is a dive watch whose name, Supermarine, is a throwback to the 1930s when the British aircraft manufacturer regularly won the Schneider Trophy and where the derivative fighter plane – the Spitfire – captured the hearts and adulation of the populace during the Battle of Britain.

    Detail of the new Bremont x Bamford S500 Supermarine with California dial.

    The S500 watch has a constructed three-part (Trip-Tick) titanium case and a Bremont in-house chronometer-tested movement. The aesthetic look is all George Bamford, black coated throughout, including the rotating bezel, with a special “sandwich” dial. When I spoke with George at the launch event, the whole idea started with a single comment on his part: “why had Bremont not introduced a California dial yet?”

    The design used on the face of the Bamford x Bremont watch is termed in the trade as a “California sandwich dial”. For those who are not sure exactly what that means, it consists of Roman numerals on the half top and Arabic at the bottom, where the dial is constructed with a stencil of numbers and hour markers sandwiched with the luminous California blue (yes, that is the name of the colour) material. This style was used in dive watches in the 1930s, although the name “California dial” is reportedly a derivative from a company in the US state that began to re-fit Rolex “Bubbleback” watches with the dials in the 1980s.

    Graphics from the Bamford x Bremont S500 Supermarine launch event, evoking imagery from Len Deighton’s ‘60s classic The Ipcress Files.

    The retro military visual to the watch was exploited at the launch with promotional material based around the 1960s Len Deighton’s spy classic: The Ipcress Files. This is the era that saw Britain’s re-emergence from wartime restrictions, where Stephan Archetti’s photo of Michael Caine throwing a punch encapsulated the mood of the times, and where the anti-hero figure of “Harry Palmer” triumphs over the establishment through insubordination and bloody-minded determination. It is probably not lost on the Bamford x Bremont creators: George, Giles and Nick, that in a sense, their collaborative watch is intrinsically the same statement to the watch industry.

    Words: Dr Andrew Hildreth

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